About a month ago, I stumbled upon the Smitten Kitchen website while looking for a Russian dessert recipe. Since then, I have been back often and subscribe to her posts so I don’t miss a new recipe. I also purchased Deb’s cookbook, which came out last year.
I usually don’t care much for lentils or chard. Having them both in a recipe made me a little apprehensive and I almost didn’t try it. This is the third recipe that I’ve actually tried from Deb and it’s really a winner! It has so much flavor (and good things for you in it) that my mouth was saying “More, more, more,” even though my stomach was saying “I’m so full!.” After two bowls, I put the rest in the refrigerator and now I can’t stop thinking about my lunch tomorrow! My husband, who loves lentils, practically inhaled his first bowl…then savored the second. He was a big fan of the garlic oil that included nice, golden brown, crispy slices of garlic (Deb was right….this is one thing you can’t omit).
This soup can be made dairy-free (skip the cheese) or vegan (skip the cheese and sausage). Unlike Deb, I used a full package of Italian Sausage since I like lots of meat in my dishes.
Note: I used a full package of sausage instead of half. I also let my garlic get a golden brown and crispy for the oil drizzle for each bowl…the crispy garlic was the best touch, according to my husband.
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
4 large links of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used half of this, preferring the sausage to not dominate the soup’s flavor [update] and from the comments, it sounds like most of you preferred it with just 2 links as well)
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups shredded or thinly ribboned Swiss chard leaves or kale
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to finish